Entertaining

5 RULES FOR MAKING A VALENTINE’S DINNER FIT FOR CUPID HIMSELF

“Never go out on your first Valentine’s Day,” Martha Stewart once advised SNL Weekend Update’s Seth Meyers, who was a guest on her show. http://www.marthastewart.com/892365/seth-meyers-chat

“You have to make it special at home.”

Meyers was dubious at first — but Stewart’s culinary charm wooed him over to the domestic goddess side. After all, why spend Feb. 14 with your beau in a crowded restaurant (no intimate moments there) or waiting in long lines to secure your table for a what is sure to be a pricey meal?

Like Stewart, I highly recommend orchestrating a killer meal fit for Cupid himself in your own kitchen. After dating my beau Robert for almost four years, I am going to once again prepare him a swoon-worthy feast — with my pocketbook factoring in, but not necessarily my waistline.

First, let’s lay down the rules of attraction for the Valentine’s Day dining table:

Rule No. 1:

MAKE WHAT YOU BOTH LOVE

For Robert, this means no kale, brussel sprouts, mushrooms or scallops. I can deal with that. And make sure to know your sweetie’s food allergies, if any. Breaking out in hives after sampling an otherwise delish shrimp satay with peanut sauce, for instance, is bound to be a buzz kill.

Rule No. 2:

BUDGET YOUR TIME AND MONEY

Enlist all your preferred customer cards and be sure to scan the weekly ad section. https://www.kroger.com/weeklyAd. Since I will present a surf-and-turf theme to my main squeeze from my one of my favorite food bloggers, The Pioneer Woman (aka Ree Drummond) http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/surf-turf-cajun-pasta/, I purchased the steaks online at Omaha Steaks, where the Family Feast (originally $219.91) was on sale for just $49.99. I’ll freeze the extra steaks, pork chops, chicken breasts, burgers, meatballs and desserts for Easter, Mother’s Day and other special celebrations I will host this spring. http://www.omahasteaks.com/servlet/redirect?fromUri=/famfeast19

My best tip for cooking on the cheap is to survey your kitchen and use ingredients you already have on hand. I recommend Martha Stewart’s Brownie Heart Cupcakes because they’re just so darn cute. But the ingredients aren’t so fancy-schmancy that you wouldn’t normally stock them in your pantry. Plus, the recipe makes 24 of these petite sweet treats, so you can send some home with your love or impress folks at work the next day by bringing some in to enjoy with the morning cup of joe. Either way, it’s a win-win. http://www.marthastewart.com/318374/brownie-heart-cupcakes

Rule No. 3:

KNOW YOUR LIMITATIONS AND YOUR STRENGTHS

in the culinary department. If you’re a newbie behind the apron, then limit yourself to something easy but appealing. Spaghetti  immediately comes to mind. It’s almost impossible to screw up spaghetti. Just use a store-bought sauce, like Newman’s Own Sockaroo Spaghetti Sauce ($1.94 at Target.

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Doctor it up with some fresh basil (and Italian sausage, if you’re not a vegetarian) and serve over spaghetti noodles. Add a dusting of grated Parmesan cheese and enjoy a glass of a nice Chianti. Costco has ridiculously good prices on wines, and the chain’s Kirkland Signature label is impressive as well.

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And please, please don’t over-commit on the menu. For me, cooking the main entree and baking the cupcakes will be time-consuming enough. Therefore, I will purchase a pre-made salad kit from Kroger and a crusty French baguette from Panera Bread for the sides.

Flour, wheat and bread
Flour, wheat and bread

LET ROMANCE GLORIOUSLY SPILL INTO THE TABLE DECOR 

The best place ever to get inexpensive yet pretty flower arrangements is Trader Joes http://www.traderjoes.com/fearless-flyer/category/7. I will place a charming bouquet from TJ’s in a crystal vase, handmade in Poland, I recently found in the clearance aisle at my local Marshall store for $3. The red cloth napkins I used during Christmas will again star brightly at my Valentine’s Day table, along with the melamine turquoise dinner plates I bought last summer at Target and the eggshell-blue Noritake china serving platters I discovered at a thrift shop. I like to mix things up a bit during the holidays by forgoing traditional color combos; and red and variations of turquoise or blue make such a vibrant and delightful departure from the usual red, pink and white pairings seen on Valentine’s Day.

Rule No. 5:

DON’T FORGET THE IMPORTANCE OF THE PERFECT PLAYLIST

Pandora, which is my current music obsession, is crazy-good when it comes to tailoring a playlist of your favorite songs and artists. You can sign up for free, but if you plan for a night blissfully unfettered by commercials, then purchase a yearly subscription.

I love the Hipster Cocktail Party channel (get your groove on via Bill Withers, Amy Winehouse, B.B. King and Etta James) on Pandora. “Let It Be Me,” by Ray LaMontagne, oozes Valentine’s Day-appropriate sentiment in such a seriously sexy way. http://www.pandora.com/station/play/2967350453843291996

 

This article was written by Suzette DeSart for The Daily Clutch